A quick recap coming up for today’s Stoke vs Tottenham game, just as soon as I go and ask Sepp Blatter why we don’t have goal line technology yet…
Leaving the late controversy for one moment, this was a great game of football. Tottenham came out strongly in the first half and showed the organisation and discipline that was lacking in their midweek Champions League game. Despite only having Crouch available up front (with Defoe, Keane, Pavyluchenko and Dos Santos all suffering from plastic pitch injuries) and a midfield including Jermaine Jenas, Spurs enjoyed the better of the first half and deserved a 2-1 lead at the break. The first goal came from Lennon on the left flank cutting inside and passing into Bale who’s shot was saved, the rebound was straight to Crouch who’s attempt on goal was blocked by Stoke’s captain Ryan Shawcross, only for his clearance to hit Bale in the face and end up in the back of the net – a very fortunate goal. Shortly after, Stoke were level thanks to a corner from former Spurs player Matthew Etherington that ending up at the feet of Fuller, after Gomes had been blocked, who finished nicely. Just five minutes later, Spurs were back ahead. Lennon, this time from the right, had space from defenders backing off him fearful of his pace, looked up and crossed to Bale on the left side of the area who hit a sweet left foot volley into the top right corner of the goal. An absolute gem and a goal worthy of winning any game.
The second half was a totally different game, with Stoke coming out determined to get a result from the game. There was sustained pressure for most of the half, but only one particularly notable save from Gomes. In the 67th minute, Tuncay took a shot from distance which was deflected by Kaboul and Gomes, back peddling, had to reach back and tip it over his own crossbar. From the resulting corner, Tuncay had a free header and really should have equalised but put the ball wide of the post. Minutes later, from another corner, Stoke missed another good chance when Shawcross blazed over following another Etherington corner.
All of this excitement though, was overshadowed by the incident in the last minute of the 90. Another Stoke corner came in and Gomes had to tip Shawcross’ header onto the crossbar, from the rebound Walters headed towards the corner and Crouch blocked it on the line…or behind the line…or not quite behind the line. Honestly, I don’t know the truth of it despite having seen it replayed a dozen times from several angles. The referee, Chris Foy, was in the perfect position and he too did not know for sure whether the whole ball had crossed the line. Stoke appealed but to no avail and the game ended as a 2-1 win for Tottenham.
As always in these situations, the victory is bittersweet. Whilst it’s great to have the three points, if that ball was in the goal then Stoke deserved to get a draw from the game. What is unbelievable to me is that in 2010, with all the technology that is available, a decision as crucial in top flight football as whether or not the ball was in the goal is still left up to the eyesight and, in some instances, the opinion, of 2 people: the referee and the assistant referee at that end of the pitch. This is not an argument for video technology – as I’ve said, I have seen the replay many times and I am still not sure whether the ball was in or not. Having a simple coating or microchip in the ball that set off a beep or the like when the whole ball was over the line would eliminate the doubt. I do not see a downside to this: it would not hold up the game in the way video replays would; it guarantees team are rewarded or not for goals and it takes a small amount of pressure off the officials. FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, has always maintained that football should be the same at all levels and thus technology cannot be used at just the highest level. However, this is not a realistic view as football at the grass roots level is a multi-billion pound industry. Fans don’t pay high prices to watch games on Hackney Marshes and the difference between a goal counting or not counting does not have huge implications to the future of the team, which it can in the top flight where potential Champions League qualification or Premier League status could be at stake.
A Brief History of Times this has happened before
Of course, Tottenham were victims themselves of a famously not-given goal – although this one was much more clear cut – in the last minute of a league game at Old Trafford when Mendes scored from just inside the half way line http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-8dOjeVC80
And on the opposite side of the decision, sometimes goals are given without the ball going in, or even nearly doing so in a game in the Championship between Watford and Reading
It’s actually quite hard on first viewing to figure out where the ref thinks the ball has gone in. What’s strange is that the point he does think it’s gone in is at a time when a Reading player, the team on the attack, has cut it back in – if the ball was going in – why would he have been trying to prevent it?
And of course, there was Lampard’s “goal” against Germany in the World Cup which should have been given, and was much clearer than today’s incident.
So, good result and a decent performance for Tottenham and a first league win of the season. But the issue of goal line technology remains something FIFA needs to address and soon.